Correct Outstanding Heat & Hot Water Violations If Tenant Files Complaint
Each year, tenants file heat and hot water complaints with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR)—most of them at this time of year. City codes require owners to keep their buildings reasonably heated—68 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night—from Oct. 1 to May 31 if the air temperature falls within certain parameters.
There have been more that 66,000 heat complaints filed with the city since the beginning of the “heat season” on Oct. 1—that’s 11,000 more than the same time last year from tenants who say they are forced to bundle up, buy space heaters, and sleep with coats on. These complaints may be made by an individual tenant about a problem in the tenant’s apartment. Or a group of tenants may band together and file a building-wide complaint.
If an outstanding Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) heat and hot water violation is on record for the apartment or apartments involved in the service complaint when the DHCR’s district rent administrator (DRA) issues its order on the complaint, the order will go against you. And the DHCR has upheld such orders.
For example, a rent-stabilized tenant’s subtenant complained of inadequate heat in his apartment. The DRA ruled for the subtenant based on an HPD violation finding inadequate heat. The owner appealed and lost. The owner claimed that it advised the subtenant when she moved in that she would replace the radiator in the bedroom, along with a valve for the living room radiator. The owner claimed that the subtenant denied access for this work several times, and pointed out that no tenants above or below the subtenant had complained. But the owner had submitted no proof that the HPD violation had been revoked, rescinded, or improperly imposed. So the DRA’s order was proper [Levenson/Copeland, March 2014].
To avoid losing your case based on an outstanding HPD heat and hot water violation, check for these violations whenever you face a complaint for reduced services based on a claim of inadequate heat and hot water by logging onto HPD’s HPDONLINE system at https://hpdonline.hpdnyc.org/HPDonline/provide_address.aspx.
If you discover any outstanding heat and hot water violations, make sure that you correct them, and if the deadline for certification hasn’t passed, certify their correction with HPD. Then when you answer the tenant’s DHCR complaint, acknowledge any heat and hot water violations and submit proof that you’ve corrected them, even if the tenant hasn’t raised this as an issue. Chances are, if there are heat and hot water violations on your building’s record, the DHCR will eventually discover them. So it’s best to acknowledge their existence and show that you’ve corrected them.
For example, say you corrected a heat and hot water violation for the apartment where the complaining tenant lives, and certified its correction with HPD. Your answer to the complaint might say something like this:
Although HPD issued a heat and hot water violation for this apartment, I corrected this violation by repairing the radiator in the living room and certified correction of this violation with HPD. Attached are copies of the invoice for the repair to the radiator and the certification of correction I filed with HPD.